Seeking asylum in the hills & transcendence on the trails

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Part 2 – Highland Fling 2013)

The Anglo Celtic Plate was a race I enjoyed more than I thought I would. The recovery however took longer than I expected. I took a few days off then started running again. I was desperate to get back into the hills after a month or so of training mostly on road (a challenge in itself). Less than a week after the race I took my chance and hit a fairly rough trail for a 25-miler. By mile 22 I had developed a serious pain in my knee and had to walk / shuffle the last few miles. I was worried but thought it was probably just a strain from the uneven surfaces after the relentless pounding of a road ultra. In short, I had done some kind of ligament damage probably just from doing too much and not allowing enough recovery time. So I was worried about the Fling as I couldn’t commit to much training before it. It was only weeks away. (more…)


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Part 1 – ACP 100K)

The title pretty much covers the 3 races since I last posted a blog after the D33 in March. 3 races – all very contrasting.

1. The Good – The Anglo Celtic Plate 100K – Perth 2013

I was asked towards the end of last year if I wanted to be considered for selection for Scotland to run the above race. I immediately said, ‘yes please’ and only afterwards thought about what the race entailed. An ultra road-race is something I’ve never done before and I knew it would be a different sort of challenge. On paper it’s just a straightforward 62.7 mile race on tarmac. Easy. Just run round a 2.4K loop of a park with support at the start / finish line. In reality, it’s a beast. (more…)


Ultra-running – the highs and lows of life

It’s fair to say that 2013 has already been a pretty mixed bag of ups and downs. For reasons I’ll come on to later I’ve been giving much thought to why it is I continue to run and what I really get from it.

Last week I was asked to talk at a WHW race ‘inspiration’ night to offer some insight into how I train and maybe provide some words of encouragement to those attempting it for the first time. It would have been nice to talk to more people on a one-to-one basis afterwards but by the close most people were probably keen to get home. It got me really questioning why someone would want to run the best part of 100 miles. To openly accept the inevitable suffering (at several stages throughout the race) as well the necessary sacrifices required to train for it. (more…)


A Winter West Highland Way – report

Getting there

West highland way race 2011It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while but didn’t quite manage to organise it last year. Not that it takes too much to organise if you keep it low-key.

It made more sense for me to do it as a reverse rather than trying to sort out accommodation at the Fort William side (or worse – sit on a train back to Glasgow). I decided on a day, booked a train ticket and that was it. The Winter WHW was on.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t just doing this as it sounded like a good idea or just to see how far I could go – it wasn’t ‘spur of the moment’ – I had tailored my training for an attempt and had a target time in mind. The Jez Bragg record of 21hrs 14mins.

Thursday came around quickly and before I knew it I was heading for Queen Street Station with everything I’d need to survive the run (I hoped). It must have been the coldest day of the year to date and I was more than a little concerned about being under-dressed. With just under 2L of fluid in my pack, food and some spares I didn’t really have much room for emergency clothes. Still, no going back now. (more…)


Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS) at UTMB – report 2012

The “beautiful” UTMB race by all accounts……

‘A race in open country along the ‘Grande Randonnée’ paths crossing though the Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta valley countryside.

….sounds like a stroll. Although doesn’t look it:

BRUTAL is how I’d describe it. Don’t let the pitiful 2 qualifying points or the fact it’s ‘only 70+ miles’ give you the impression that this is the ‘easy one’. Nothing at UTMB is easy. (more…)


Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS) at UTMB

We’re taking this racing thing International! Plane leaves very early tomorrow morning and I’ll be on it raring to go.

The TDS is part of the UTMB event in Chamonix and is…

‘A race in open country along the ‘Grande Randonnée’ paths crossing though the Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta valley countryside.
A mountainous event, including numerous sections at altitude (>2,500m), in weather conditions which can be very difficult (night, wind, cold, rain or snow), requiring a very good level of fitness, the appropriate equipment and a real capacity for personal autonomy.’ (more…)


Character building…..

That’s what you call it right? When you’re looking to put some gloss on the latest failure?

Well, since the West Highland Way race end of June, my character has come on leaps and bounds.

Number 1

First up was a Bob Graham Round attempt on the 6th July, 2 weeks after the race. So, no real time for resting, training or tapering. My fault – I knew it was tight but really wanted to try as I had the opportunity to do it with a friend and some other fantastic runners and support. For anyone not familiar with a BGR it’s pretty straightforward: you have 42 Lake District peaks to top in 24 hrs. You set out from Keswick and tackle each of the fells in a specific order, ensuring you return to Keswick not a minute over the 24hrs – doing so is classed as a success. There’s no race, no fanfare just a daunting 26,000ft of ascent along 66 miles of Lakeland terrain (amongst other things). One of those being the weather. Turns out the 6th was one of the worst days I remember from any summer. We had planned a 6pm start and looking back, the signs were all there – it was wet, it was windy and looked ominous. (more…)


West Highland Way Race Report – 2012

The ‘Big One’

Can’t believe I’m writing my report already. It’s done. It’s gone for another year and already I’m dreading the long wait for its return. I love the West Highland Way race. There, I said it. There is always a drama, there are times when you’d choose to be anywhere else in the world but for now at least, it feels like a home-race.

I won’t go in to all the details – there are a lot of other reports for you to get through and you’ve probably heard most of the same stuff from me for a while. In short, training had been good, taper was pretty straightforward and I was more organised than the year before thanks to all we had learned on my first WHW race. I arrived in Milngavie feeling good but perhaps not as confident as I had hoped having pulled out of the Cateran Ultra after 20 miles or so due to stomach problems. It was an emotional exit having won it the year before and had been extra stoked by the fantastic line-up of talent on the day. It wasn’t to be though – so had to try to put it to the back of my mind.

(more…)


D33 DNF and Highland Fling Fun – 2012 races

First race of the season was the D33 in Aberdeen (March 17th). Just 12 months before, it was the first ultra I’d ever run and I was excited to see if I was now running better after a full season of racing. Turns out the second time at the race was no less significant but for different reasons entirely. As the title suggests this is the first race I’ve DNF’d. The dreaded stomach issues were with me the night before and didn’t get much better after breakfast. I thought I’d be fine when I started running so stuck very much with the plan and set out at a decent pace. The pressure / pain in my stomach wouldn’t shift however and after 20 miles or so, I couldn’t race any longer – I couldn’t chase the 2 in front and I couldn’t hold off those behind. (more…)


Kit of the Month – March (more minimal shoes!)

The New Balance Minimus MT-00

I’ve been a fan of the Minimus MT-10 for a while. From the first time I ditched the socks and took off onto a Lakeland trail I had a really good feeling about them. Yeah, that day the trails were smooth, the ground was dry and I was basking in an unexpected week of British sunshine before the official start of winter. Good times. Since then I have had them back home on some rougher (and wetter) Scottish trails where they’ve performed well although with a couple of small issues (details to follow).

Overall the MT-00 is lighter and a touch more ‘minimal’ than its older brother.  As the name suggests, it’s a zero-drop shoe vs. the previous 4mm drop on the MT-10. Not a huge difference in the grand scheme of things – it’s the weight difference that feels more drastic than the differential balancing.The NB designers have clearly gone crazy with a scalpel and removed most of the rubber from between the circular pods making the sole not only lighter but much more flexible. As the pods appear much more pronounced as a result of the cut-back’s, they feel grippier too – the MT-10’s had very little on wet grass / mud. The rubber compound also feels different – they’re definitely stickier, making them at home over rocks and hard trails. They also feel decent on the road although I think they’d wear super-quick vs some of the other barefoot road shoes (like the New Balance MR-00). (more…)